IELTS

How does the scoring system work for IELTS?

If you are planning on taking IELTS for foreign studies or immigration, this article explains the complete IELTS scoring system in detail.

Written by Laiba Bukhari · 3 min read >

IELTS is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration. IELTS scores are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest). You’ll be given a band score from 1 to 9 for each section of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. You’ll also be given an Overall Band Score – which is the average of your four individual test section band scores.

In this article, we will discuss the IELTS test marking and scoring system in detail.

Who evaluates the tests?

All Listening and Reading tests are marked by certified markers, who are regularly monitored to ensure their reliability. All answer sheets, after being marked, are further analysed by Cambridge Assessment English.

Responses of the Writing tests and Speaking performances are assessed by certified IELTS examiners. All IELTS examiners hold relevant teaching qualifications and are recruited as examiners by the test centers and approved by the British Council or IDP: IELTS Australia.

How is each section of the IELTS test marked?

IELTS Listening

One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.

A Band Score conversion table is produced for each version of the Listening test which translates scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands.

IELTS Reading

This applies to both Academic Reading and General Training Reading test. One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test.

A Band Score conversion table is produced for each version of the Reading test, which translates scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands.

IELTS Writing

This applies to both Academic Writing and General Training Writing test. Each task is assessed independently. The assessment of Task 2 carries more weight in marking than Task 1.


Task 1 responses are assessed on:

  1. Task achievement
  2. Coherence and cohesion
  3. Lexical resource
  4. Grammatical range and accuracy

Task 2 responses are assessed on:

  1. Task response
  2. Coherence and cohesion
  3. Lexical resource
  4. Grammatical range and accuracy

Scores are reported in whole and half bands. Detailed performance descriptors have been developed which describe the written performance at the nine IELTS bands. These performance descriptors apply to both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training versions.

IELTS Speaking

Each part of the interview is assessed independently. It is important to note that you are marked on your English and not on the opinion you hold.

Your responses are assessed on:

  1. Fluency and coherence
  2. Lexical resource
  3. Grammatical range and accuracy
  4. Pronunciation

Scores are reported in whole and half bands. Detailed performance descriptors have been developed which describe the speaking performance at the nine IELTS bands. These performance descriptors apply to both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training versions.

The IELTS 9-band scale

The highest score for IELTS is 9 and the lowest score is 1, each score is a reflection of different levels of English users. 

In the following, we’ll discuss what each band score means in detail.

Band 9  –  Expert user
The test tasker has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

Band 8  –  Very good user
The test tasker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.

Band 7  –  Good user
The test tasker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.

Band 6  –  Competent user 
The test tasker has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

Band 5  –  Modest user
The test tasker has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.

Band 4  –  Limited user
The test tasker basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.

Band 3  –  Extremely limited user  
The test tasker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.

Band 2  –  Intermittent user 
No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

Band 1  –  Non-user 
The test tasker essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.

Band 0  –  Did not attempt the test
The test taker did not answer the questions.

How is your overall band score calculated?

You can score whole (e.g., 5.0, 6.0, 7.0) or half (e.g., 5.5., 6.5, 7.5) bands in each part of the test. Your overall band score is calculated by taking the mean score of the four test components (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). The score for each component is equally weighted. Your overall band score is rounded to the nearest whole or half band.

For example:

If you achieve 6.5 for Listening, 6.5 for Reading, 5.0 for Writing and 7.0 for Speaking, you will be awarded an Overall Band Score of 6.5.

Total score of 25 ÷ 4 = 6.25 which is a band score of 6.5.

If you achieve 4.0 for Listening, 3.5 for Reading, 4.0 for Writing and 4.0 for Speaking, you will be awarded an Overall Band Score of 4.0.

Total score of 15.5 ÷ 4 = 3.875 which is a band score of 4.0.

IELTS results validity period

While it is up to each organisation to set a validity period that works for their purposes, the official validity period of the IELTS certificate is two years from the date of declaration of its results.

Conclusion

IELTS band score is the grading system in IELTS used to measure your English language proficiency in all the four test components i.e. listening, reading, writing, and speaking. An overall band score is also calculated as the average of all four components’ scores to reflect your overall IELTS English language proficiency grade.

For more information or help regarding IELTS preparation, you can enroll in our IELTS preparation courses as a beginner or an advanced learner today.

Written by Laiba Bukhari
Laiba Bukhari is an engineering graduate deeply passionate about content writing and blogging. She is also a former USA Exchange Student. Laiba quotes "I achieve my work goals through hard work, passion, research, skills, and perseverance." Profile

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